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'Aligarh' film actor wins top Indian award for portraying gay professor

Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee has won the country's top award for his portrayal of a gay university professor in the film "Aligarh." Homosexuality is illegal in India because of a 19th-century colonial law.

Manoj Bajpayee will be honored with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in the critics' choice category for his performance in the film "Aligarh," the Indian Express reported on Saturday.

The film's director, Hansal Mehta, tweeted the news:

The Dadasaheb Phalke prize is awarded by India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The award was set up in 1969 to commemorate Dadasaheb Phalke, who made the first Indian feature film, "Raja Harishchandra," in 1913 and is referred to as the father of Indian cinema.

Bajpayee thanked his fans and said he was extremely honored to receive the prize.

"Aligarh" was released earlier this year and is based on the true story of a professor, Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, who taught the Marathi language at Aligarh Muslim University in northern India. Siras was sacked from his job after a television channel secretly recorded videos of him embracing a rickshaw puller. He died under mysterious circumstances.

Homosexuality is illegal in India, where a colonial-era law prohibits any kind of intercourse that "goes against the order of nature."

The Supreme Court of India has announced that it will review the law later this year, suggesting that the legislation may be changed to decriminalize homosexuality.

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